When will the dawn break?


Javaid Iqbal

Shahid is lying flat in a place he does not recognise to be his own. For over a week in the hospital ward, he is struggling to cope with the alienness of the new surroundings. With cotton placed under the black goggles, he constantly raises his hand to feel the white strands. The only time before he wore goggles of this kind was when he fancied impressing his friends with a dashing photograph. Now he wore them for a different kind of photographers. A couple of days ago he asked his father when the sun would rise, when would there be morning light as he had not seen the same for many days. His father breaks down knowing that he has no answer except that whole light had extinguished from the world.
He turns his face aside to be consoled by the attendants of other beds in the ward. There was a sense of hope when a doctor took out the eye like a soft marble out of the socket. With careful little moves he was trying to work out the best way to suture the thin strands behind the cornea. The ball bearing shaped pellet had converted the mass of eyes into a frayed mat, wherein it was difficult to figure out one fragile filament from the other. Still his father had this feeling that his son would get back his eyesight and the light as the doctor went on working delicately with shining little instruments. After a long and tedious process the doctor was sure as daylight that the return of light was impossible as the high speed pellet had penetrated piercing its way into the eye making a mess of distinct areas in the socket.
What Shahid can get now is a dim and vague perception of things. He can sense an incoming hand or feel the distance of the voice from his body, but the miraculous privilege of the apprehension of the visitation of the divine light is impossible. He has to get used to the fact that the sun never rose, or even if it did before it was some kind of a pleasant nightmare. The reality for him now is inverted on its head. The dream is real and the real is hallucination.
There are different kinds of blindness. There is blindness due to the unquestioned veneration of the nation. And there is blindness due to intoxication of power. While Shahid’s blindness embodies and is born of his desire to see the pure light of peace and dignity, the blindness of the worshippers of nation emerges from a yearning of domination, and the longing to quell any person who raises an eye against the deity of nation. That is why when you speak about the blinding of children in Kashmir, what your get from Indian nationalists is that it was inevitable, for the nation had been challenged. This blindness is the worst, and is immune to the light of truth and empirical reasoning, as what it asks for is total surrender and subservience. Nothing is going to cure this blindness unless a disease strikes it from within to flood the eyes. This nationalism is not just, as Einstein said, the measles of the human race, but a blindness that defeats any attempt at treatment. And when nationalism blends with the crudest form of religion, as encapsulated by the RSS’ ingress into power, expect the blindness will cross all civilised limits of rationality. For it not only influences the eyes but even strikes the ears deaf. What you get in return to pleas of justice are wild lashes of a madman, bitten by a barmy dog, who can neither see nor hear.
The other blindness is that of the local inconsequential toadies both on treasury benches as well as those in opposition. It is just a matter of turn on the rotating chairs of pantomime. For their variety of blindness, the lust for chair, blocks their vision. In Karnataka, over a few thousand cusecs of water, all parties united in solidarity with the people; here even if piles of dead bodies are put before them like Timur’s skull pyramids, and broken eyes are raised to size of a hill, they will factor in designs of Delhi before opening their mouth. The submission before Delhi, which in turn means jostling for power in Srinagar or Jammu, is absolute. Not long ago one of these toadies screamed to shut a woman from Delhi because she was questioning what was happening in streets; repeatedly calling her, mocking her down as “this woman.”
The same is now allowing himself to be puppetteered because light has dawned on him that while character can wait chair might slip away. And for the present incumbent of the chair it cuts a nice heroic empathising picture to weep for Asiya and Neelofar, and console the relatives of rebels when any one of them was slain; somehow the new rebels are inviting bullets and pellets and don’t deserve any sympathy because the force of the new logic says that instead of going for toffees and milk they went for blindness.
The spirit of solidarity has now washed away to reveal a character that is no more upright than of those selfish mortals who preceded. Not for nothing it is said that to know the character of a person, install him on chair, and the interior of the person would come out in the full glory of light.
The Braille School idea has been mooted for the blind children. For one, the idea can best meet the expectations if it is delivered at the doors of mooters. It is long overdue, and the rest are better spared the empathetic sermons from people who have sold their souls to Mephistopheles. The sky-high expectations associated with the new players have been frustrated by the unfolding night of blindness that each new statement comes as a shock to people who felt they had tied their lives to a secure and peaceful future. For people like Shahid peering into an everlasting night light will shine from their heart into their eyes when the place they inhabit gives a feeling of their own, the moment, when, quoting Fanon, the earth under their soles sends signals of true belonging to their heart. And they sense that Delhi, Srinagar and Islamabad are aligned in a manner to give them the feel of ownership of their land and political fate.